Plasma interactions in the Martian Nightside Ionosphere

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Laila Andersson, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States
Based on measurements from a number of missions at Mars the nightside ionosphere is patchy. The new mission MAVEN dedicated to observe the upper atmosphere and the plasma interactions provides the first comprehensive observations of the low altitude nightside ionosphere. Observations show that at density gradients the plasma is unstable and significant wave power, heated/accelerated electrons, and heated ions are co-located. Below 300 km, thermal electrons (>3 eV) are observed at the gradients to low density regions. The nightside ionosphere below 180 km is thought to be maintained by electron impact ionization and therefore these regions with thermal electrons may be the primary energy source for the low altitude ionosphere. Outside of the low density regions the plasma is cold. These observations suggest that the wave heating might be the primary process in the Matrian nightside ionosphere. The characteristics of these regions associated with density gradients will be presented and discussed in this presentation.